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The September 2012 Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival is Here!

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Observation — the focus for September 2012

Welcome to the September 30, 2012 edition of Simple Science Strategies!


Blog Carnival archive - simple science strategies

Mushrooms and Lichens

Hot off the press! We demonstrate how some fungi disperse their spores in Puffballs! posted at A Child’s Garden. We didn’t intend to study puffballs, but here they showed up, overnight, at the edge of our driveway. So (of course) we had to stop our course and spend time with them!

We also included Make Room for Mushrooms posted at A Child’s Garden. This was originally posted in 2011, but submitted to this year’s blog carnival, because we learned so much, that we wanted to share it again.

 

Ant Colonies

Our ant studies are repeats from last fall, because we liked the way we conducted (and reported) our nature study, and didn’t want to tweak it! September Study 3: Ants,Termites and Ant Lions posted at A Child’s Garden includes lots of links and suggestions for carrying out ant studies (perfect for fall).

Because the “One Small Square” strategy was covered in this month’s Simple Science Strategies newsletter and posts, we shared a past study of Citronella ants using the strategy. In Citronella Ants Go Marching, posted at A Child’s Garden. We used the “One Small Square” strategy as we explored under the rock and brick edging of our flower bed, and discovered a species of ant that we hadn’t known about before. Fun!

 

Bird Feeding

As part of our Exploring Creation Through Zoology studies, we have conducted many experiments and investigations right in our own backyard. In What Color Attracts More Birds? – A Lesson on Fractions, posted at A Child’s Garden. We connected science and grade-level work on fractions as one learning task to accompany our study of birds and their feeding preferences.

 

Wildflowers and Seeds

In our favorite fall study, we present September Wildflowers in Connecticut – Our Sock Walk. posted at A Child’s Garden. We wanted to share the wildflowers we saw on our sock walk, plus the (not-so-great) results of our follow-up investigation (where we planted our socks), so we put the photos together in a mini-field guide.

As a result of our hike, we learned a lot about how plants disperse their seeds. In our Squidoo lens, Seeds Get Around, posted at A Child’s Garden, we share a botany study that was a spin-off from our wildflower and seed work, and show what we learned about seed dispersal mechanisms.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Simple Science Strategies using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


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The “One Small Square” Strategy: Mushrooms and Other “Fun Guys”

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[Edited and re-blogged from “A Child’s Garden,” September 2011. All photographs (c)2010-11, Kim M. Bennett/Simple Science Strategies.]

We originally completed this study last fall, but are re-submitting this for the current SSS Blog Carnival, because it made good use of the “One Small Square” Strategy, the focus strategy for Week 3 of the September Newsletter, and focused on mushrooms, the topic for Week 2!

Mushrooms love the wood chips in my flower bed (Hartford, Connecticut, 2011).

We sure have had some wild weather here in New England at the end of the Summer of 2011. We have had so much rain that the crop of mushrooms sprouting up everywhere has been very interesting and incredible.

Fall, especially the Back to School time, is always a prime time to go mushroom exploring, with the warm days, cool nights and more frequent rain.  Also be on the look-out for mushroom cousins, the slime molds and actinomycetes, that you probably mistake for their more well-known family members. Here is a mushroom study that you can do for September.

 

Before You Go Outside:

Tiny shelf fungi on a dead tree. (Fenton-Ruby Park and Preserve, Willington, Connecticut, 2010.)

 

  • Read up on mushrooms. The Handbook of Nature Study has a very thorough discussion of many of the types of fungi that you might see on an expedition, on pages 714-727. If you read a little further, you can learn about their indoor cousins, the bread molds (pp. 727-728).
  • The Handbook of Nature Study website has an Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge on Mushrooms that has excellent links to videos, notebooking pages and other resources.
  • Gather materials you might need for a mushroom study: clipboards and pencils, hand lenses, a long plant tag or flag to mark your mushroom spot, plastic food service gloves.
  • Read One Small Square: Practice Looking Closely at the World and  Outdoor Hour Challenge #9: One Small Square for descriptions of how to carry out the observation activity. 
  • Prepare observation sheets for each child. 
  • Review routines: “How to Work With a Partner.”
  • Teach safety rules about potentially poisonous plants.

 

Honey mushrooms in a shady flower bed. (Hartford, Connecticut, 2010).

Observing Mushrooms and Their Cousins:

A mushroom study lends itself well to a multiple-day observation, since the fruiting body of most fungi only remains for a few days, and changes considerably with time and the weather.

Step 1: Note the location of some fungi on a nature walk.

Some places to look include wood chipped areas of a school flower garden or playground, rotting logs, tree stumps, and places where a tree once stood. At this time of year, a whole crop can pop up literally overnight, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any on a particular day.

Be on the lookout for the little “buttons” of some mushrooms that look like tan bumps before they sprout up the next day.

Step 2: Use the One Small Square technique to sketch what you observe.
Step 3: Mark the location with a stick or “flag” so you can find it the next day.

Step 4: Return to sketch changes for the next few days, until the mushroom collapses.

Mushrooms change very quickly from day to day, which is exciting for kids. Note the weather each time you observe (that day’s as well as the weather from previous days). These observation forms have a place to record the weather.

Each day you observe, ask the students some questions:

  • How did your mushroom change? Why do you think this happened?
  • What was the weather like the day before? How might that have affected the mushroom?
  • What type of weather do mushrooms prefer? If you don’t know, how can you find out?
  • Where are the mushrooms growing? What is the ground like there? Are there any trees around?
  • Do you see any insects around the mushroom? What are they doing?
  • Does your mushroom have a smell? (Make sure that children don’t handle the mushrooms without wearing gloves, because some poisonous mushrooms resemble harmless ones.)

Classroom Follow-up: 

Study the Anatomy of a Mushroom —

  • Enchanted Learning has a diagram of a gilled mushroom that students can label, to learn the anatomy of one type of mushroom.
  • The Mushroom Lady has a pile of activities that will get your kids really studying mushrooms in-depth.

Learn About Mushroom Relatives —

  • Here is a handy sheet of terms that you might want to study, so that you correctly distinguish between fungi, actinomycetes, slime molds and other fungus-like organisms.

Study Edible Mushrooms (and Eat Them!) —

  • Create a mushroom study station with stereoscopes and various edible mushrooms from your grocer’s produce department: shiitake, oyster, portabella, white button, straw, crimini…

Fairy Rings, Faerie Houses and Other Literacy Connections —

  • Study the folklore surrounding fairy rings and faerie houses.
  • Build a faerie house (or two or 10…) along your school nature trail or in your backyard garden.

Faeries and other woodland creatures — literacy connection!

Resources

One Small Square: Backyard. $2.43 at Barnes & Noble.

A voyage of scientific discovery is as near as your own backyard. There you’ll find a busy hub, full of creepers and crawlers, lifters and leapers, singers, buzzers, climbers, builders, and recyclers. It’s a place where children can smell, listen, look, and get a hands-on feel for life, all in one small square of land and air. Backyard is just one of the exciting, vibrantly illustrated volumes in the critically acclaimed One Small Square series of science and nature books for children. Click on the photo (right) for information on ordering this great addition to your homeschool or classroom science library. (Helpful hint: I had multiple copies for my science center).

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